So my favorite GIS app was finally in version 1.0. I have been using this app since version 0.6 and it has improved a lot both in stability and functionality. For me, QGIS is mainly for my daily GIS needs (display data, vector editing, a quick map layout). While bare bones analysis and processing (mostly raster and imagery) are in GRASS GIS.
I finally managed to install QGIS in my Ubuntu Intrepid 64-bit machine. At first, I tried the usual install process:
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install qgis
However, this method doesn’t include all the QGIS python plugin goodies. I had to follow Tim’s advice to get all the required dependencies.
After a brief twirl, I have to say that the developers lived up to QGIS principles of providing an easy-to-use-yet-very-powerful GIS app. I made a couple of notes of what I like about QGIS. This post lists my top 5 favorite feature of QGIS. Well, from a fanboi/user’s (not developer’s) point-of-view. First, here’s a screenshot of QGIS the first time I load it.
5 favorite feature
Dockable windows – when working with any GIS app, I use the pan/zoom functions the most. I usually don’t need all the toolbars and window panels. Oftentimes, it is waste of valuable screen space. Fortunately, I can remove all the unnecessary toolbars and panels and leave only those I need.
My minimal QGIS window
Python plug-ins – Plug-ins, plug-ins and more plug-ins! ArcView calls it extensions and we love the community-generated free ArcScripts. The plug-in framework is not new to QGIS (we already have C-coded plug-ins since time immemorial). Plug-ins are scripts (no compiling is necessary) that provides additional functionality to QGIS to solve a particular (i.e. “Find by attribute”) or a series of task (i.e. “Geoprocessing”). Using Python as the plug-in framework, user-contributed plug-ins remarkably increased. Here’s a compilation of community maintained plugins available.
That’s a lot of plugin!
One of my all-time favorite is CFarmer’s meta-plugin ftools.
GRASS toolbox – one of the catch-on for me when I started using QGIS is the integration of GRASS tools (actually it is just another meta-plug-in, but I think it deserve special mention in my list). The then cryptic world of GRASS modules using CLI can now be accessed via friendly GUI of QGIS. I like QGIS’ approach to making the GRASS modules simple and easy for beginners. As a rule of thumb, GRASS modules within QGIS must:
1. have 3 or less options;
2. be robust so that it doesn’t allow a user to run a module with wrong option
New GRASS modules are added with every release of QGIS, .
The power GRASS in QGIS
Mapserver and WMS layer – Mapserver is a great for publishing your map on the web but configuring your mapfile is a very painful process. Using the mapserver plugin, you can create your mapfile in minutes without even opening a text editor. Simply load all your data layers, edit your layer styles within QGIS and save the QGIS project file as a MapServer mapfile . You can then test and view the resulting WMS layer via the WMS layer plugin. In addition, the WMS layer provides access to any public WMS available.
Create a MapServer mapfile in a GUI
Choose and load your favorite public WMS in QGIS
The community – a good software is never good enough without active community support. Among the mailing-list I subscribe, the QGIS community provides an excellent resource for many of my GIS problems. Solutions are provided both by the developers and users. In the QGIS mailinglist, you don’t get the “RTFM” response although they have an excellent User’s Manual made no other than the community.
Got a problem? Ask the community for help.
In conclusion, do I like the it? You bet! But I want more, I also made a list of what feature should be added in QGIS, that will be another post.